Webster’s dictionary defines the word hero as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.”
That definition adequately describes the people in this week’s Recent Sports Heroes. There are acts of kindness shown by a couple of NFL players. But you’ll also see examples of individuals who make a difference every day, like the college women’s track and field coach, passing on the messages given to her when she was growing up.
Let’s recognize four recent examples of great acts and people with fine qualities.
Aaron Jones – Running Back, Green Bay Packers
The 23-year-old second-year running back noticed an elderly woman struggling with her cane and bags as they were about to get off a plane in an Appleton, Wisconsin, airport in May. He offered his assistance, carrying her bags as they exited.
A flight attendant had assured the woman that someone would be standing by with a wheelchair to help her through the airport after she got off the plane. Once they arrived, a wheelchair was there, but no one from the airport was on hand.
Seeing this, Jones again offered his help, pushing the woman’s wheelchair through the airport.
“I pushed her down to where her daughter was,” Jones told ESPN staff writer Rob Demovsky. “As we got halfway down there, I had a bag tag on, and she asked, ‘Are you a Packers player?’ I said, ‘Yes ma’am, I am.’ And she was like, ‘My husband would’ve loved this.’ You could tell she got excited, and it made me happy.”
Another woman walking by noticed Jones, recognized him as a Green Bay Packer player, and took a picture, which she posted on Twitter.
Jones didn’t realize his kind act had gone viral until after he arrived home and checked his Twitter feed. This is one instance where the power of social media had a positive impact.
Jermaine Gresham – Tight End, Arizona Cardinals
Another NFL player stepped in at an airport to help a woman who was about to be charged $50 by American Airlines to check a bag. The woman, Delilah Cassidy, didn’t have the money.
“They tell me that I’m going to have to miss the flight and head back to the ticket counter to pay down there,” Cassidy wrote on her Twitter feed. “I’m pleading, devastated after a long day of travel. Then, this man walks up and says, ‘How much is it?’ They tell him $50 and he says, ‘I got it.’”
That man was Gresham, who handed the agent his credit card, while Cassidy and other airline employees looked on in shocked silence. As she boarded the plane, Cassidy noticed Gresham sitting in first class, and tried to pay him back.
“He just shook me off and told me to pay it forward,” she wrote.
Monique Henderson – Women’s track and field and cross country coach, Golden West College
Success doesn’t usually come overnight. It takes time and patience, something many of today’s athletes don’t want to hear.
Monique Henderson learned that at an early age. She was blessed with coaches who taught her to find out why she enjoyed doing what she did, to be motivated for herself, and to have fun.
It was this mindset that helped Henderson win two gold medals in three Olympics. Now, she passes along that same influence and positive message to her athletes at the Huntington Beach, California, college.
“Young athletes are not robots,” she said in an interview with the national Alliance for Youth Sports. “I remind them that every day that they are out there is a positive day, and another day toward reaching their goals. Every day is a day of improvement.”
Loren Worthington – Photographer
Over 30 years ago, Worthington suffered a spinal cord injury while playing baseball that cost him the use of three limbs, along with his participation in sports. Two decades later, he re-discovered his passion, this time through a camera lens.
From his wheelchair, Worthington takes photographs of U.S. para-athletes. In 2016, the United States Olympic Committee invited him to the Paralympic Games in Rio.
Check out his inspiring video here.